The District Attorney of Harris County announced this week that a man whose death sentence was vacated last year for the prosecution’s failure to disclose alibi evidence will not be retried. DA Devon Anderson dismissed the 2005 capital murder charge against Alfred Dewayne Brown, who has spent more than a dozen years on death row, and released him from the Harris County jail, where he has been awaiting retrial for two years.
Brown’s case has been the subject of Pulitzer Prize-winning commentary by Lisa Falkenberg at the Houston Chronicle, which reported the news of his release. Brown had maintained his innocence throughout his trial and post-conviction proceedings, saying that on the day of the murder of Houston police officer Charles Clark and check-chashing clerk Alfredia Jones, he had been alone at his girlfriend’s house. He claimed that he had made telephone calls from the house, which would have corroborated his whereabouts.
As the Chronicle reported at the time the murder charge was vacated late last year:
After Brown lost his direct appeal, a private law firm, K&L Gates LLP, took Brown’s case in 2007 and began searching for evidence to support his alibi.
Then, in the spring of 2013, a Houston homicide detective found an old box of documents from Brown’s case while cleaning out his garage. Inside was a phone record that showed a land line call was made from the girlfriend’s apartment exactly when Brown said he made it.
The phone record had been requested by the lead prosecutor on the case, Dan Rizzo. The district attorney’s office said at the time the document must have been inadvertently misplaced and former DA Mike Anderson, the late husband of the current district attorney, quickly agreed to a new trial, although prosecutors still maintain Brown is guilty.
A phone record that aids the alibi of a man charged with murdering a police officer is “inadvertently misplaced” and that man ends up spending twelve years on death row.
In announcing the dismissal this week , DA Anderson said, “We re-interviewed all the witnesses. We looked at all the evidence and we’re coming up short. We cannot prove this case beyond a reasonable doubt.”
But Houston police continue to assert Brown is the perpetrator. Chief Charles McClelland told the Chronicle, “I caution you in how you describe ‘not going forward with the case’ or refiling the case and equating that with someone being ‘innocent.’ I will concede he is ‘Constitutionally innocent’ until proven guilty.”
This is an inadvertently telling distinction from the head of the agency apparently responsible for the violation of Alfred Brown’s constitutional rights. As for Brown’s status an exoneree, it is not in question. Maurice Possley, a senior researcher at the National Registry of Exonerations, told the Chronicle that Brown fits the criteria because his conviction was dismissed and there was evidence not made available at the trial that was favorable to the defendant.